Nutrition 10/21/2020

Fruits and Veggies

Why are fruits and vegetables good for me?

Fruits and vegetables are good for you, but probably not in the way you expect.

Swipe to learn more!

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When you were a kid, did adults tell you to eat your veggies before you could have dessert?

A sugar high is fun and veggies may not be something you crave.  But fruits and veggies really are good for you.

Colorful fruits and veggies can lengthen your healthy life, keeping you active into old age.

Why do colorful fruits and veggies improve your health?  Here’s a hint: It’s not just because they contain vitamins and fiber.  They also contain toxins!

Colorful plants are loaded with vitamins and pigments that your body can turn into vitamins.

Your body can turn pigments in red and orange fruits and veggies into vitamin A, critical for eye and brain health.

These pigments can even give your skin a glowing amber hue.  A veggie tan!

The vitamins and fiber in plant foods can improve your memory, help your body fight invaders and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

But to get these health benefits, you need to eat a variety of plants - including ones you may not like.

If you were like most kids, you resisted eating veggies, especially dark green ones.

Brussels sprouts used to be my nemesis.  Now, grilled with olive oil - yum!

Even today, you might wince while eating dark green plants, melons or tart berries.

Why are plants an acquired taste? For starters, they often have a bitter taste.

Bitterness is a signal to our guts and our brains that a food is toxic.  This is no coincidence.

Many plants including vegetables make bitter toxins to fight off insects and fungi!

These toxins belong to a group of plant chemicals called phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors and unique tastes.

But they are more than bitter, colorful chemicals.  Some of them are poisons and medicines.

In Africa, people mash up and cook bean plants to make poisoned arrows for fishing.

A bitter, soap-like phytochemical in beans called saponin is toxic to fish... and human cancer cells!

But if fruits and veggies contain toxic substances, how are they good for us?!

In small doses, toxic phytochemicals train cells in your body to fight stress.  When your cells detect these toxins, they notify their clean-up crews to clean them up!

But once they get going, your cells’ clean-up crews help get rid of many other harmful chemicals and rogue cells.

For example, saponins in beans and spinach help your body fight cancer cell growth.  They can also lower your cholesterol.

Your cells’ clean-up crews also lower inflammation.  Inflammation happens when your body sends your immune cells to attack invaders.

Inflammation can be good, but your body can get carried away with it.  Inflammation goes up when you are stressed.

Inflammation can create reactive chemicals that hurt not just invaders, but also your tissues.

Too much inflammation can put you at risk for diabetes, dementia and cancer.

But phytochemicals are known for helping your body to quiet down its own inflammation.

Anthocyanins are famous inflammation-fighting phytochemicals.  They give plants a bright blue or purple hue.

Eating anthocyanins is like martial arts training for your cells!  It helps them fight inflammation.

By fighting inflammation, anthocyanins in berries help your cells better absorb sugars and resist diabetes.

Along with phytochemicals, fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber which helps your gut fight inflammation.

So next time you bite into a particularly flavorful or bitter fruit or veggie, remember…

You are training your cells, from muscle to brain cells, to fight stress and inflammation!

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